‘This needs to stop’: Old City Hall homeless encampment disbanded

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Amanda Ramirez/File

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The homeless encampment at Old City Hall was disbanded early Wednesday morning after verbal and written notice by Berkeley city officials.

City of Berkeley spokesperson Matthai Chakko said a verbal notice was given to people at the encampment Saturday morning by city officials citing that the encampment was in violation with several city codes and state laws. A written notice was given Tuesday.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín said in a tweet Friday that the North Berkeley Senior Center will be open for shelter from Sept. 1 to Sept. 15. After it closes for shelter, Frances Albrier Community Center will be open from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30.

“Those locations are temporary,” Chakko said. “Those two are not long-term sites, but they are shelter.”

According to Chakko, vouchers were offered to people at the encampment to stay at the North Berkeley Senior Center, but no vouchers were accepted.

Co-founder for homeless advocacy group First They Came for the Homeless, Mike Zint, said in an email that although the North Berkeley Senior Center is temporarily available, it holds about 30 fewer beds than the emergency storm shelter which recently closed. He added that there is no plan for the encampment to return to Old City Hall.

“There is no plan to go back. The seniors and disabled from the shelter are not healthy enough for a prolonged protest,” Zint said in an email. “We had hoped the city would respond with a solution.”

Zint added that some people who stayed at the Old City Hall encampment were moved to Here There encampment and the rest “will be in a doorway.”

Councilmember Kate Harrison announced in an email that the city is making efforts to ensure there will be a permanent homeless shelter available.

“All of us– the City Manager, the Mayor and his staff, and the Council– are working hard every day to ensure our homeless neighbors live in dignity through Pathways, providing housing vouchers, setting up temporary shelters and placing measures on the November ballot to serve those most in need,” Harrison said in the email. “The actions of a few are absorbing a disproportionate amount of our attention and harming our neighborhood.”

There were 10 tents and seven people disbanded at the encampment. Civilian city staff, police officers and staff from the Parks, Recreation and Waterfront department cleaned the encampment after disbandment and cleaned about half a truckload worth of debris, Chakko said. There were no arrests or citations made at the site.

“This needs to stop,” Zint said in an email. “We are trying our hardest to get people to understand the truth. The homeless have no choices. No housing, not enough shelter beds.”

Jessíca Jiménez is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jesscajimenez_dc.